Glossary = User Story
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Definition: A user story is a small, self-contained unit of development work designed to accomplish a specific goal within a product. A user story is usually written from the user’s perspective and follows the format: “As [a user persona], I want [to perform this action] so that [I can accomplish this goal].”
What is a User Story?
In agile software development, a user story is a brief, plain-language explanation of a feature or functionality written from a user’s point of view. Many agile experts also describe a user story as the smallest unit of product development work that can lead to a complete element of user functionality.
Product teams choose to break development work into user stories instead of product features or product requirements for several reasons.
Are easy for anyone to understand
Represent bite-sized deliverables that can fit in sprints, whereas not all full features can.
Help the team focus on real people, rather than abstract features
Build momentum by giving development teams a feeling of progress
What Does a User Story Look Like?
Most product teams use a similar user story template, typically just a sentence or two written according to the following formula:
As a [description of user], I want [functionality] so that [benefit].
User Story vs. Use Case: What’s the Difference?
Like user stories, a use case describes how a user might interact with a product to solve a specific problem. But the two are not interchangeable; they are different tools used in product development.
Ivar Jacobson, who is credited with developing the use-case concept, explains that use cases document both a user’s goal and the functional requirements of the system. In other words, use cases are designed to capture much more detail than a user story about the process a user goes through to achieve the desired outcome from interacting with a product.
Whereas a user story is written as a very brief statement describing only the user’s end goal, a use case often describes several additional steps, including:
The preconditions required before the use case can begin
The main flow of events (also called the basic flow) describing a user’s path, step by step, to completing an action with the product
Alternate and exception flows, meaning variant paths a user might take with the product to complete the same or similar goal
Possibly a visual diagram depicting the entire workflow
How Do You Write a User Story?
Here’s a simple, six-step process for crafting user stories:
Step 1: Decide what “done” will look like = definition of done
Step 2: Document tasks and subtasks.
Step 3: Determine your user personas.
Step 4: Create stories as ordered steps.
Step 5: Seek user feedback.
Step 6: Draft stories that can be completed in one sprint.
Product Teams, Why Wouldn’t You Write with Your Users in Mind?
Aside from the fact that they’re designed to fit on index cards and can be easily understood by anyone, one of the biggest advantages of user stories is that they can help you from getting lost in the technical details of your product’s backend or from becoming enamored with a UX you believe is elegant but that isn’t actually structured in a way your users prefer to work.
User stories help your team accomplish all of this — and build better products — by forcing you to make one simple change to your approach to development planning. Rather than writing up your plans from the product’s point of view (which features to build), user stories force you to draft each proposed idea for new functionality from the point of view of the actual people who will be using that functionality.
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